On Karl Marx's Wage Labour and Capital

Notes by Erik Empson

Chapter II

Workers sell labour-power not labour.

Wages represent exchange value of labour power.

Capitalist employs with existing money - not that accrued by sale of commodity. Thus wages are not the worker's share of commodities.(p. 20)

Explanation of price of commodities in terms of supply and demand. What determines supply and demand? The cost of production. Prices are either higher or lower than cost of production, but this is cancelled out and things are generally sold at cost of production. (p. 24- 26)

Economists see this average and then regard it as a law that the average price of commodities = cost of production, thus regarding the rise and fall as accidental.

"But it is precisely these fluctuations, viewed more closely, bring the most fearful devastation in their train, and shake the foundation of Bourgeois society like an earthquake, it is precisely these fluctuations which in their course determine price by cost of production. In the totality of this disorderly movement is to be found its order." (p. 26-32)

On necessary subsistence: class as a whole - 'cost of existence and propogation of the worker'. (p. 32)

Chapter V

"The relations of production in their totality form those social relations which are called a society, and, in truth, a society at a definite stage of historical development, a society with a peculiar and distinctive character." (p. 34)

"capital is not merely a sum of material products; it is a sum of commodities, of exchange values, of social magnitudes" (p. 35)

Chapter VI

"Thus capital presupposes wage-labour and wage-labour presupposes capital. They mutually condition one another; they mutually bring each other into existence"..."An increase of capital is, therefore, an increase of the proletariat, i.e. of the working class." (p. 38)

Capital and labour are two sides of the same relation. (p. 39)

Wants, needs and pleasures are socially determined and therefore relative. (p. 40)

Relative consideration of positions of woker and capitalist. Even though workers' living standards might increase they can decrease proportionately to the capitalists gain. (p. 44 + p. 47)

Even if within the relation of wage-labour/ capital the worker gets richer crumbs, their interests are still antagonistic.

"When capital is growing rapidly, wages may rise, but the profit of capital will rise disproportionately faster." (p. 47)

Chapter IX

Through drives to productivity, capitalists make it harder for themselves to profitably employ their capital. (p. 53)

Shrinking of wages as a (relative) general tendency (p. 57)

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